The skill level of the former Alabama running back is as varied as I have seen in a long time. He can dominate between the hashes, throwing would be tacklers aside and breaking off numerous long runs.Richardson's low center of gravity makes him a major threat against smaller linebackers and safeties jumping the box to stop the run. He has amazing field vision, always looking a couple yards ahead and thinking of his next move before the defenders have an opportunity to adjust.
Initial Contact after hitting the line of scrimmage wont bring Richardson Down a majority of the time. Instead, he forces teams to stack the box and defenders to swarm to him. This causes major concerns in the passing game, especially if Richardson is playing with a capable quarterback and passing game. In watching tape of Richardson I rarely saw the defender get the best of him.
He usually drives the opposition back and rarely gets stopped for losses. This is a primary skill that I look for in elite running backs: the ability to avoid negative plays when a hole doesn't open up. We saw this with Emmitt Smith a great deal in previous seasons.
Richardson is also an able blocker out of the backfield, another important factor for success in the NFL. Rookie backs are usually extremely weak in this aspect of the game, but whoever drafts Richardson wont have to worry about blitz pickup or protection from the back.
Two things that has to be taken into account when selecting a running back early is work load and build. As much talent as a LaMichael James has, he doesn't have the physical capabilities to be a player that touches the ball 25-to-30 times a game. This will not be an issue for Trent Richardson. At 5'11” and 224 pounds, he has the ability to shoulder the burden in the running game.
We all know that running backs have the shortest shelf life of any player in the NFL. Their window has become so limited that it is important to take into account exactly what a team is getting in terms of that in the draft. Richardson sat behind Mark Ingram the last couple seasons, only becoming a starter in 2011. Richardson carried the ball only 540 times in three seasons at Alabama.Comparatively, a player like Adrian Peterson carried the ball over 720 times in college: that is a marked difference.
I'm usually dead set against drafting running backs in the first round. Just take a look at some of the better players at this position in the NFL. Arian Foster (un-drafted) and Frank Gore (3rd round pick), to name a few. However, if a team has an opportunity toget a "once in a generation" type of back, it is extremely hard to pass up on him.
This is why I don't envision Richardson falling out of the top five. Whether it is the Cleveland Browns, whose running game bordered on horrible this season, or the Tampa Bay Buccaneers: some cellar dwelling team will think of the former Alabama back as their savior.